Panchakarma Sex Cleanses and Other Fertility Wives Tales
Over the years, people have tried some ~creative ~ things to boost fertility, from eating a parasitic worm to inserting egg whites… down there. Yeah, those are a hard no for us.
But in an episode of The Kardashians on Hulu, Kourtney Kardashian shared about the “Panchakarma cleanse” that she and her then fiance, Travis Barker were doing to improve fertility after an unsuccessful egg retrieval. During the cleanse, Kardashian and Barker abstained from sex, exercise, and caffeine – and one of Kardashian’s doctors even encouraged her to drink Barker’s sperm to regulate her thyroid levels. Yes, really.
While this particular cleanse might sound a little out there, the Kardashians wield a lot of influence on our society – for better or for worse. And after watching this episode, some people are likely wondering “Should I try a sex cleanse like Kourtney Kardashian?”, “Will a sex cleanse boost my fertility?” or “ What does a sex cleanse involve?” Here’s what the science suggests.
Does a sex cleanse improve fertility?
In the show, Kardashian claims that the cleanse is designed to “get all of the toxins that are deep within our tissue out of our bodies to have better quality eggs." So, can abstaining from sex help your body detox and produce better quality eggs?
Not exactly. There is some research around how abstinence affects sperm quality, with mixed results. Some studies have shown that abstinence can improve the concentration of sperm, percentage of normal sperm, and motility, but results differ on the optimal length of abstinence to see that impact. Bottom line, having Travis abstain from ejaculation probably didn’t hurt, but it is unclear if it might have helped.
As for the claim that a sex cleanse can improve the quality of eggs through detoxification? There’s not much research to support that.
Regardless, some people try a version of a “fertility cleanse” with this “detoxification” goal in mind. In a fertility cleanse, a naturopath often uses special herbs aimed at detoxifying the body
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(like Kourtney and Travis were trying to do by abstaining from caffeine for their sex cleanse) and supporting a healthy reproductive system. The apparent goal is to flush out heavy metals, toxins, and inflammation that’s piled up in the body and prevent someone from getting pregnant. Advocates of the fertility cleanse say that it’s a way to prepare the body for conception and support a healthy pregnancy.
But… is there science behind a fertility cleanse? Right now, there aren’t any studies or research supporting the benefits of a fertility cleanse. In fact, many of the herbs and supplements a naturopath would use aren’t regulated by the FDA. Some may even be best avoided with certain medications or medical conditions. In general, the best way to prepare your body for trying to conceive is by adopting healthy habits, like a well-balanced diet and an active lifestyle.
And as for the doctor that told Kardashian that drinking Travis’s sperm would help her thyroid levels? There is currently no scientific research to support that claim.
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While Kourtney Kardashian’s “sex cleanse” has gotten a lot of attention, there’s no scientific research to support the idea that abstaining from sex will improve the quality of your eggs. Unlike a sex cleanse, some naturopaths might recommend a fertility cleanse in the months before trying to conceive where natural herbs are relied on rather than abstaining from sex, but these should be explored with extreme caution as many of the specialty herbs in these cleanses aren’t FDA-regulated.
Our Simple Note
Remember, what works for a celebrity might not work for you. While it may be tempting to think that doing exactly what a Kardashian does will help you in your fertility journey, the reality is that your body is totally unique and requires its own personalized care. If you’re trying to conceive, only your own team of doctors can definitively tell you what might help improve your fertility – not a TikTok influencer or a reality TV star. Remember to be a smart consumer of media and do your own research before diving headfirst into a potentially dangerous “health” trend.
Hanson, B. M., Aston, K. I., Jenkins, T. G., Carrell, D. T., & Hotaling, J. M. (2018). The impact of ejaculatory abstinence on semen analysis parameters: a systematic review. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 35(2), 213–220. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-017-1086-0